This story was updated at noon on April 11.
After a nearly yearlong search, the Fairfax County School Board on Wednesday announced its pick for a new superintendent — Karen Garza, superintendent of Texas’ Lubbock Independent School District.
“I am humbled and very thankful to the [School Board] and the whole FCPS community for this wonderful opportunity,” Garza said in a press release issued by FCPS on Wednesday afternoon. “Fairfax County Public Schools has a long tradition of excellence and has consistently been one of the premier school systems in the country. I look forward to continuing that tradition and working very closely with the Board and the other division stakeholders to achieve even greater success for the students of FCPS.”
Final approval of Garza is expected to take place later this month. She would replace retiring Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale on July 1.
Garza, 50, is the preferred candidate, meaning her selection depends on a negotiation for employment and a successful site visit to the Lubbock Independent School District, according to school officials.
In Texas, school district boundaries are not always affiliated or aligned with county or city limits, hence the “independent school district” designation.
Lubbock Independent School District serves about 30,000 students and is about the size of Arlington County Public Schools.
Fairfax County Public Schools enrolls more than 180,000 students.
Asked if Garza’s experience in a smaller district would translate well for Fairfax County Public Schools, Board Chairman Ilryong Moon (At-large) said, “If you look at our current superintendent, he came from a school district, Frederick [Maryland], that was about 40,000. And his predecessor, Dr. [Daniel] Domenech, came from a small school district [in Suffolk County, N.Y.].”
According to Moon, the Lubbock school district ranks among the top 5 percent nationally in terms of student enrollment.
The Fairfax County School Board unanimously chose Garza during a vote Saturday.
Garza’s resignation as superintendent in Texas was announced earlier Wednesday in a letter to employees.
She held a press conference with local news media in Texas Wednesday afternoon.
Lubbock officials said in a press release that during her four-year tenure at the Texas school system, Garza led the independent school district through several major initiatives, including the district’s first comprehensive facility assessment, which resulted in voters approving a $198 million bond, the largest in the district’s history.
Garza is also credited with bringing more than $25 million in private and foundation grants to the school system.
“We are very disappointed for Lubbock ISD to lose Karen Garza; however, we are proud of what we’ve accomplished under her leadership,” Steve Massengale, president of the LISD Board of Trustees, said in a statement to the Lubbock community.
Prior to her time at Lubbock, Garza served as chief academic officer of the Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest school district in the country. Fairfax County Public Schools is the eleventh largest.
“Dr. Garza comes to Fairfax County with impressive credentials and skills to lead FCPS in a time of incredible challenges and opportunities,” Moon said. “She comes to us with a deep commitment to openness and engagement and is eager to work collaboratively in the best interest of all students. The Board looks forward with great excitement to working with Dr. Garza as it builds upon past successes and moves forward in a new era for FCPS.”
The search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA) reviewed the candidacy of 47 individuals and interviewed 19 potential candidates. HYA presented nine candidates for consideration by the School Board. The Board conducted initial interviews with six of those candidates and identified semifinalists for further consideration.
Additionally, a stakeholder committee that drew widely from the county, including parents, residents, students, and staff, interviewed the semifinalists and gave feedback to the Board.
“As the superintendent search process winds down, the School Board would like to thank the citizens of Fairfax County for enthusiastically participating in and providing great insights throughout the process,” Moon said. “This outcome would not have been possible without the active participation of our community.”